Within the community and rural development funding available to my Department for 2014, I will be allocating some €3.68m to rural recreation services, an indicative increase of 5.2% on 2013 allocation. My Department continues to engage with the Local Development Companies, where Service Level Agreements are in place in relation to the delivery of a range of recreation services including the continued implementation of the Walks Scheme and other appropriate schemes and actions to implement relevant objectives of the National Countryside Recreation Strategy.
The Walks Scheme was launched in March 2008 on the recommendation of Comhairle na Tuaithe (The Countryside Council) and represented an innovative response to facilitating the development and maintenance of many of Ireland's key walking trails. This Scheme brings the landholders in as key participants in the provision of high quality walking trails, by contracting them to undertake maintenance work on the trails in line with agreed work plans. The Walks Scheme is currently operating on 40 trails supported by 1,811 landowners, and is being managed by 16 Local Development Companies around the country.
My Department is continuing negotiations with other State Agencies to agree a National Outdoor Recreation Plan for Public Lands and Waters in Ireland. My Department also continues to be a main funding partner of Leave No Trace Ireland which promotes responsible recreational use in the outdoors. It encourages all outdoor enthusiasts to act responsibly outdoors and to protect lands used by the public for the benefit of the environment and for future generations. My Department chairs regular meetings of Comhairle Na Tuaithe (The Countryside Council) where matters are discussed relating to rural recreation/activity tourism and furthering the implementation of the priorities of the National Countryside Recreation Strategy (NCRS).
It is intended to facilitate access to the uplands for hill walking and similar activities and a Pilot Mountain Access scheme is under way at Mount Gable in Connemara. Discussions are continuing regarding the expansion of the initial proposed Carrantuohill Pilot to the entire McGillicuddy Reeks in Co Kerry. A report on the Kerry Mountain Access scheme is currently being prepared and should be available towards the end of 2013.
My Department is currently negotiating the implementation of a National Indemnity Scheme which would indemnify private landowners against claims from recreational users for injury or damage to property. The Occupiers Liability Act of 1995 already provides significant protection to landowners, but the upfront costs of successfully defending a claim can be significant. The development of the indemnity scheme is not expected to lead to any major increased demand for funding.